I met Rico while I was lost, looking for some companionship in a cheap hostel which I paid $3/night in Siem Reap. He came along in for a quick dinner, where we had beef stick, buttered bread and some sour salad.
“Wait a minute, I’m sorry but I forgot your name. It was Enrique right?”
“No, but it isn’t not important. Plus, you haven’t asked me my name…”
It was my first night in this cozy beautiful town so I hit the pub street with much eagerness and anticipation. We found a place where they sell draught beer for 50 cent. I was glad that Rico is a kind of person who, no matter how rich he is, still prefers to dig deep in the local area while travelling, not afraid to try new things, and has no problem with picking cheap food and drinks over fancy restaurant stuff.
I got to hear his stories, how he was born with half German and half Spanish blood, how he was brought up, and how he was touched by those little kids selling things in Cambodian temples. Whenever he heard someone say something bad about his society, he let out a long sight, head turned down and eyes covered with his hands. It was like he was a beautiful innocent soul who has never been in contact with the less luxurious side of lives in 3rd world countries, though I bet he wasn’t like that with all of those travelling and experience.
I told him a joke about me being a student majoring in fashion design. When he wanted me to comment on his clothing, I said “if that slippers could come alive and talk, it would say ‘I’d rather be dead’.” Yes, I was mean just like that, only to those I’m comfortable with. The last one that actually made me feel like this wasn’t even Ben. It was Matt. (With Ben, I felt like I was starstrucked, I was amazed by the 8th Wonder of the World.) He then started to make what I then figured as a very weird cracking laughter, which I really appreciated since hardly do people laugh at my lame jokes.
“What do you call this in English, ‘a hand of banana’?” he asked.
“No, I think it’s a… string?” I hesitantly replied.
“Really, are you for real? A ‘string’? I mean, isn’t it supposed to be ‘a bunch’ or ‘a hand’?”
And while I was thinking about what to say next in the embarrassment of a not-native English speaker, he was laughing again. In the next 40 minutes, we said goodbye and headed different way. He asked for my Facebook and sent me an email instead since Facebook somehow didn’t disable my account due to suspicious log-in attempt from an unusual location (which is from me). The email is entitled “Siem Riesp fashion teacher.” Yes, he even spelled Siem Reap wrong. This time, I had the laugh.
And I guess I’m gonna think about that laughter every once in a while since it reminds me of not just a short 4 hour conversation but also of a gypsy spirit, of freedom land and of a distant vivid fantasy that I once held so dear.